Feminism, Social Issues, Theology

it's been a good year


I started blogging in the early part of this year mostly because I was bored to tears. I was working on getting editing jobs, but they were few and far between, and my health just doesn’t allow for outside-the-house employment. I also started writing here because I wanted to finally say out loud a lot of the things that had been slowly germinating over the past four or five years but had never been in a place where I felt capable of expressing them.

I honestly had no idea that Defeating the Dragons would take off the way that it has, or that I would have some of the most amazing opportunities dumped in my lap, or that I would get to know some of the most fantastic people anywhere. I have an incredible community here– my readers and commenters are amazing, and I am grateful for all of you. Comment sections on the internet can be… well… yup. But not here. Here is healthy, and affirming, and encouraging– and heated, and provoking, and insightful. I can’t believe how lucky I am to have the readership that I do. I’ve gone an entire year in blogging without being plagued by trolls. Part of me can’t quite believe it.

This year has been one of the best in my life. Part of it was getting married– newlywed bliss is pretty awesome, you guys– but a really big part of it was blogging. It has been a rough road, and there have been many, many times when I wanted to give up because it all just hurt too much to keep going. But because of all of you, I’ve kept pushing forward. Because of your e-mails, and messages, and tweets, and comments, because of your stories, I’ve kept doing this. You’ve helped me believe that stories matter, and that stories can make a difference.


I don’t often talk about the mechanics/stats part of my blog. That all just feels very self-aggrandizing. But, hey, it’s the end of the year, and this part of blogging is actually kind of exciting. It worried Handsome for the first few months, actually– I checked my stats rather compulsively. Thankfully, that’s gone away.

So, first off, there are 3,444 comments! This is the stat that excites me the most, actually, because I love the discussions we’ve had here, and I think it’s one of the most valuable parts of this blog. I tend to think of Defeating the Dragons as a community more than a platform– many of my posts are “I don’t really know what to think about _____, but here’s what bothers me about _____” and then your comments take off in really interesting conversations. I adore that there are so many perspectives– and they run the gamut. Atheists, agnostics, post-fundamentalists, conservative evangelicals, Catholics, Anglicans, humanists, Orthodox and Messianic Jew . . . I can’t even think of all the different viewpoints. I know that I’m extraordinarily lucky to have that.

Also, I’m probably going to break 300,000 views today. That is just . . . mind boggling. The first day I broke 500 views I actually cried I was so terrified. The concept that people were reading my blog seemed too fantastic to believe. I’d had a few blogs in the past, and on a good day I’d get maybe 5 views, so 500 was insane. Now 500 views is a slow day, and twice that is the average. Whoda thunk. I’m also very happy with the pacing. I know as a writer I’m supposed to be uber obsessed with building a platform and all that nonsense, but I like my not-so-very-tiny corner of the internet and I don’t relish the thought of it getting any bigger. And all of that is entirely because of you– your shares, your conversations, your re-tweets, your guest posts, and all the rest. So, thank you for that.

No, seriously, thank you.


There’s 224 posts here, now, which in some ways feels a little impossible. How exactly did that happen, because I have no idea. A few have been popular– unexpectedly, actually. It’s been the posts I’ve just thrown together in a fit that have been some of the most sucessful, which just amuses me.

“15 Things Not to Say to a Recovering Fundamentalist” was the most popular– it even got put up at Huffington Post Religion, which… just wow. Apparently the internet really likes it when you start off a post with “15 Things.” It worried me at first that one of my more snarky, polemical pieces became the smash hit this year, but it started some valuable conversations, and since that’s what I shoot for every time I write a post, I’ll take it.

My Body is Not a Stumbling Block” was a response piece, and I spent quite a bit of time (it’s one of my longest posts) breaking down the evangelical abuse of Romans 14 in conversations about modesty. It’s also the post that became the foundation of a much larger and very unannounced project. 🙂

Taking Things Literally and Why that’s a Bad Idea” is one of those posts that led to an incredible opportunity for me– I was interviewed on Her.meneutics because of it. It’s also probably the best post for really understanding what Christian fundamentalism is like in the Deep South.

Courting a Stranger” was my reaction to the announcement that Jessa Duggar began courting. I intensely disliked how many people decide to mock her and her family, especially when courtship can be so deeply problematic.

The Bikini and the Chocolate Cake” was my first post to really take off, and it was a reaction to the early OH NOES IT’S SUMMER AND WOMEN LOOK LIKE WOMEN AGAIN bamboozle that apparently happens pretty regularly every year.

There have also been posts that I’ve poured my heart and soul into, and were my favorites of the year.

He would say I “Cried Rape”: False Allegations and Rape Culture” is the post I really just want everyone to read, because it’s what I think people desperately need to understand about rape. My experience is definitely not universal and I would never try to say that I speak for all rape victims, but this post is something I know a lot of rape victims wish people could understand.

It’s Not the Rules that are the Problem” is what I typically start shouting about when someone talks about how terrible legalism is. Yes, legalism is a real, significant problem. It’s also not what should worry us.

I Don’t Know What I think about the Bible” is where a lot of my heart and thoughts are right now, and will probably be a theme you’ll see for the next few months. This is the main question I struggle with, and why hearing Christians talk about doubt and things can be troubling for me. When I say that I “struggle with my faith” what I’m saying is I don’t know if I can be a Christian anymore not “I wonder about this obscure apologetic question that isn’t related to the essentials.”


And, that’s a wrap.

Thank you, everyone.

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  • notleia

    I feel like I need to say that you deserve all this success because you are amazingly intelligent, articulate, and compassionate. I envy your ability to give rational discussion an emotional impact. I love that you talk about your uncertainties, because I identify so much with them. Thank you for being here, if only because it reassures me to know I’m not the only one.

  • Thank you for sharing. I’m always amazed at the connections in life, and I think reading your blog has been one of the more healing gifts of my year.

    The questions you ask are so often my questions … phrased in such a way that I can look at them from a new angle. Sometimes just knowing my question in a new way feels like having an answer.

    Maybe a really good question is better than an answer, because I’m not convinced that KNOWING the answers is healthy for me.

  • Thanks for the recap! I’m a newer follower, so it’s nice to have direct access to your most popular posts 🙂

    • I second that! I’m not a regular reader, but I think I might be one now. 🙂

  • Olivier

    I wish you a happy new year or”bonne année” from a french reader.
    I wish you many more years of a awesome blogging!

  • Colinde

    Congrats on your journey this year – here’s to hoping 2014 will be just as exciting!

    This past year was a HUGE stepping stone for me spiritually. I had grown really apathetic towards the conservative world I’d broken away from (but still hold scars from), as a result my image of God was still tied to that “world” though and I was having a heard time with that. As a result of this year’s journey I’m finding a new way and a new world to view him in – it’s bringing us to a more comfortable relationship, which I want.

    Reading your words has truly been amazing. I know you’ve heard this over and over but some of your experiences, thought processes, questions etc. are SO similar to mine – and the reason that’s such a big deal for me is I have felt so ISOLATED all my freaking life in this aspect. I seriously had no idea anyone had such similarities in background, teaching, subsequent feelings of frustration/shame/guilt or did the same things that I did to people (hurting them when we were rigidly legalistic).

    It’s also incredibly encouraging for me to see someone who has been through the abuse you have, and yet is willing and brave enough to enter a relationship with another man, and to actually marry. I have stopped at dating and can’t seem to go any further. It fascinates me and gives me hope that the abuse and the triggers and the panic attacks etc. can eventually be overcome enough to have what one wants in life…
    (Maybe you’d someday considering writing on the journey from an abusive to relationship to a healthy relationship and marriage? Though I know it’s rather personal.)

    Anyway. Stories do matter… and yours has meant a great deal to me. 🙂

    • Best wishes for your recovery, and yes, you can and will recover if you keep at it. I’m another ex-fundie who is now very happily married (to an atheist, incidentally, and though I’m an ex-Christian, I’m not an atheist myself, so yes, it’s very possible for it to work out!), and I can tell you that the mistakes of my past led me to a marriage that has been blissfully fulfilling and deliriously passionate and happy. Please know you are not alone by a longshot.

  • Re: Struggling with your faith:
    That’s basically how I feel too. I think Christians hold a double standard–they say one thing and mean another. They say it’s okay to have doubts. They say it’s okay to question, to wrestle with the big issues. But they really mean it’s only okay if you come back from it before too long. It’s only okay to ask questions if you’re not really asking them–if you assume you already know the answer, but you just can’t “understand” it. Christians will be there for you and encourage you when you say you have doubts, but as soon as you clarify that you’re serious about those doubts, they’ll turn on you.

    • Exactly — if you aren’t willing to follow doubts and questions wherever they lead, no matter where they lead, then you’re not really honestly examining whatever the subject is.

  • I think your blog is really interesting to read. We may be of differing religions, but I think we have a lot of the same attitudes and values and what you write resonates with me.

    PS: Regarding book recommendations – have you guys covered the “unChristian” and “You Lost Me” books yet, by the guy who runs that Christian polling company the Barna Group? I’ve read extensive excerpts of both and think they’re interesting, though their conclusions aren’t always ones that seem rooted in reality to me (he’s got a vested interest in maintaining the Christian illusion of superiority and takes for granted that its truth claims are, well, true). Also, “Does Jesus Really Love Me?” by a young gay Christian, Jeff Chu, is a really interesting look at gay people’s approaches to Christianity and how churches are dealing with equal rights, though again, I don’t totally agree with everything he says (he’s *really* critical of ex-Christians and those who practice forms of Christianity he doesn’t personally think are valid) and would suggest it more for the cross-section of different approaches he describes and the boots-on-the-ground look at how gay Christians are dealing with their religion. Or, if you guys are interested in something with meat on its bones, “Why I Became an Atheist” by John Loftus; though he came out of his questioning as an atheist, I don’t think that’s what every single Christian would do; those discredited truth claims are what drove him out of the religion, but you and I both know that the religion’s truth claims being untrue aren’t actually the worst problem Christianity has. Any book group you’re in must do better stuff than the normal pablum I’ve seen out of small groups–so that’s why I’ve suggested what I have. I’d love to know what you end up choosing and why, if you don’t mind–perhaps a post about it?